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July 31, 2009

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Go slow, French drivers warned

DRIVERS beware! As millions of French people get ready to hit the roads on the busiest weekend for summer vacation departures, police are warning them to go easy on the gas after a very deadly month of June.

French police also will have their eyes out for foreign drivers, especially heavy footed Germans, Dutch and Spaniards, who may be caught speeding through the historical lands of Gaul.

France is the No. 1 tourist destination in the world, and it's fine network of highways also is crisscrossed each summer by millions on their way to sunnier destinations to the south in Spain, Portugal, Italy and even the increasingly popular Adriatic destinations.

June, which is not officially even a holiday month in France, was disastrous in terms of deaths and injuries, with 408 people killed, an increase of 33 percent compared with June 2008, according to the National Inter-ministerial Observatory For Highway Safety.

The jump has alarmed the French government, which yesterday issued a statement announcing it would be distributing French rules of the road in English, Spanish, Italian and German in addition to a nationwide campaign to get French drivers to cut down on fast driving.

Although foreign drivers are implicated in only 1.7 percent of car accidents with bodily injuries, they account for 9 percent of fatal collisions while representing 10 percent of highway traffic.

"Foreign tourists who visit our country, but also our citizens who travel outside of France, must adopt a serene manner of driving and respect the rules in force in the countries they visit," said Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo, who also is in charge of traffic safety.

Foreigners account for 20 percent of all speeding violations during non-holiday periods, but that figure jumps to 30 percent of the total during vacations. Germans pocketed 364,943 violations for speeding on French territory in 2008, Spanish drivers accounted for 305,456 followed by Dutch drivers with 110,954 violations.


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